My first road trip was with my 'ambassador' Dave and three of his friends (including Brian). The five of us piled into his hatchback Subaru with camping gear, a suitcase full of candy, and a destination: Gettysburg. We set off down the highway following the GPS, but slowly learned it had taken us in the wrong direction. Right out of the gate we were two hours east of our intended route, close to Lake Erie. Two hours backtracking and we were back on track.
We crossed The Keystone State (Pennsylvania) from top to bottom over the course of the day. We spent twelve hours on the road, just driving. On long distances, driving is an action in itself, rather than a means of transportation. It is an arduous task to sit in a car with four other guys for such a prolonged time.
Luckily, there was the scenery. Driving through the countryside is breathtaking. Pennsylvania is a beautiful state with very little civilization between its major cities. Rolling green hills expanded around us as the five of us crowded in the car. It was a tight fit, but we managed by taking frequent stops.
Our first stop was at a convenience store that sold fireworks. Firecrackers aren't illegal in Pennsylvania, unlike New York and recently Hawaii. We hit up a strip mall with a flea market. Brian bought a knife with a swastika on it for cheap. After, we found a roadside diner full of exotic taxidermied animal heads. The hamburger was mediocre.
We made a joke to our waitress about one of our friend's food allergies and how he could possibly die. She mentioned throwing his corpse in a lake nearby, and we forced a chuckle. On a road trip you can stop at a roadside diner and have small talk with one of the waitresses and be positive you'll never see them again. I could be sure I would never be at the Sylvania Diner more than once.
We camped for the night in a state park fifteen minutes away. The campsite was full of hitched trailers and camper vans, a pseudo-camping experience. All we had was a tent.
I neglected to pack a sleeping bag, so I slept very lightly. Waking up at 5:30AM, I read Waiting for Godot until my other friends woke up. We drove onwards to Gettysburg, a small town where one of the most famous Civil War battles occurred. We saw a documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman, and saw quite a bit of memorabilia. The recently renovated museum was full of uniforms, guns, and Abraham Lincoln's famous speech. After that, a quick walk left us at Little Round Top, the high ground with a great view of the battlefield.
On our last leg we drove to Centralia, an abandoned town on top of a burning coal mine. It is rumored to be inspiration for the Silent Hill franchise. Driving there, we sat in slower-than-crawling traffic for an hour and a half. It was an excruciating, hellish experience. Arriving at the ghost town, it was full of trash and graffiti. There were pockets of debris with smoke drifting up through the cracks. A handwritten sign on the side of the road claimed a government conspiracy to kick the people out of the town to get at the coal underneath. It was eerie.
We drove home all night.